Where is your Happy Place? This article shares one mama’s search for calmness and mental space and how it led to a 10-day encounter with silence, helping her discover her own happy places.
Stress and Confusion
For years I have been trying to "find myself" and discover the "new me" (aka the me I "lost" after having children). I tried varied therapies, from the traditional to the alternative, though none quite hit the spot. I picked up loads of hints and tips for different methods of relaxing and trying to find that elusive place where I am at peace and happy.
But I was confused. I knew I was still stressed and/or depressed and needed to relax. I knew self-hypnosis, mindfulness, and meditation could help, but either I couldn’t seem to grasp the techniques or wasn’t able to put them into meaningful practice. Each time I tried, I just couldn’t see what I was doing wrong. Did I have a misunderstanding of the technique? Was I not giving it long enough? Was I focusing too much or not enough? And most confusing – how was one technique different from another? They all seemed to be basically the same!
I kept saying, “I’m tired. I’m too busy. There’s too much to do. I need a break. I just want to stop.” It was suggested I take that break. For ages I resisted with excuses:
“I need to look after the kids; they’re too young to leave at the moment.”
“It doesn’t fit in the family schedule.”
“There is no point – I’m busy in my head and my head goes where I go.”
To that last one, meditation was recommended to put me in the right state to find that elusive happy place. I found more excuses. I told myself: meditation doesn’t work; I can’t focus; I get distracted; I don’t have the time; etc. However, after yet another person suggested I take a break away from all my stresses, I thought, why not, let’s at least look into it.
Time For a Big Break
When I decide to do something, I do it properly. I knew I wanted to relax fully and understand myself. I looked into wellness breaks with meditation, thinking this would satisfy the urge I have to be doing and learning new things while giving me a useful skill I could apply to my day-to-day life. As I was searching on the internet, I came across a course to learn a specific meditation technique. I read the website and was hooked, excited also to discover one-day meditation sessions in Amsterdam and Utrecht. However, in order to attend these sessions, it was required to first participate in their 10-day course to learn the basics of the technique properly.
The next step was to look at the course. Oh boy! I would be on a strict diet and routine with 10 hours of meditation per day for 10 days, conducted in “noble silence.” Yep, you heard right – 10 days of silence! I thought if that is what it takes to find peace in my head – and therefore my happy place – then so be it. If I didn’t manage to find my happy place then at least I might gain a better understanding of what meditation actually is and stop confusing it with mindfulness or relaxation or hypnosis. The fact the course was free and all-inclusive swayed me even further. This was in January.
Oh boy! I would be on a strict diet and routine with 10 hours of meditation per day for 10 days!
This organisation has centres all over the world that run regular courses, including in the Netherlands. I was able to find a course in October in my home country of England, that, with some careful planning, I could fit with my family’s schedules. You have to apply to be on a course, places are limited, and they fill up fast. The applications opened in June, so I marked the date in my calendar and kept my eye on the website. The day came to apply and I was in time to get my application accepted.
I had already begun making plans in anticipation and put them into action. I booked a flight to bring a friend to our house –- she had agreed to come and look after my children while I flew to the UK for the course. My husband would then drive everyone to the UK once the school holidays started, and I would meet them at Grandma’s house once my course finished. We would then do our "tour of duty" visiting family before returning to the Netherlands, ready for the school term to begin again with a bright, relaxed, and happy mom! So almost a year after finally making the decision to do something just for me, I welcomed my friend, said goodbye to my family for two weeks, and set off on my journey to discover happiness through silent meditation!
I arrived at my destination, strangely not yet missing my family at all, and quite enjoying the already relative silence. The course taught me, among other things, that it is important for me to make – and take – the time regularly to be with myself, just myself, in order to clear my head, feel relaxed, and be able to deal with all that my busy family life throws at me. I also concluded that meditation is different for each individual. For me, it is akin to all the other techniques combined, and mainly feels like self-hypnosis where I use the quiet time sitting still to think (or hypnotise) myself into thinking positive!
Ten days later I came out in a state of quite surreal calmness, having discovered I hadn’t lost "me" after all. (And if I’m honest, still not missing my family as much as I’d expected!) I was still there; just hiding under too much noise! After the retreat, I made my way to Grandma’s, and enjoyed a lovely week with family, where I was able to remain calm and at peace.
Sticking With It
That first 10-day retreat was almost two years ago! I found it difficult to acquire the quiet space I needed to practice the technique at home regularly enough to make it effective. I recently took a second 10-day course to give myself a boost. This time around, taking the time for myself was easier. I felt it was justified. I knew the effort required would put me in a better place, which can only be good for my whole family. I also found a course running at a convenient time and just a 40-minute drive from my home in the Netherlands. During this second course, I discovered I have several happy places and they are constantly changing, as is the world around me. I intend to find and enjoy those happy place moments whatever they are and whenever they occur!
The link to the world-wide site for the course I did is Vipassana Meditation
Some other sites offering silent retreats in the Netherlands are:
Please note: This type of meditation is very intense and not suitable for everybody. Participants may be required to fill out a questionnaire and provide a doctor’s note.
Becky Riddle is a full-time mom and self-confessed jack-of-all-trades-yet-master-of-none. She has been living, growing, learning, and loving with her English family of three girls and husband in the Netherlands since 2006.